NEW DELHI, India: How the situation in the Indian State of Punjab, will take shape in the wake of the imposition of President’s rule is not yet clear.
Observers here say that the dismissal of the Barnala Ministry may soon touch off a process of fresh alignment in the Akali politics.
The United Akali Dal, according to a report, have already started receiving feelers from the Akali Dal (Longowal) led by the dismissed’ Chief Minister, Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala. At least 12 MLAs of the hitherto ruling party, the report said have established contacts with the United Akali Dal to explore the possibility of unifying the party under a new leader.
Meanwhile, the dismissed Chief Minister, Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala, and members of his Cabinet have described the imposition of President’s rule as politically motivated to improve the image of ruling Congress (I) in the neighboring state of Haryana.
Mr. Barnala has put a poser whether Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi would remove the Indian Home Minister, Mr. Buta Singh, or the President would dismiss him in case there was an escalation in violence or killings under President’s rule.
Mr. Barnala sarcastically remarked that it was the Indian Home Minister who was now ruling Punjab. He said there was hardly any case to dismiss his government. “Now I will go to the people and explain to them how politically motivated was the game of the Centre to dismiss this poor man just to win Haryana elections”.
Mr. Barnala said the Congress (I) had lost in the States of West Bengal, and Kerala in the recent elections. Therefore, its stakes in Haryana elections to be held next month had become very high, compared to these stakes. “The sacrifice of poor Barnala is a small matter”, he added.
He, however, wondered if the dismissal would really help the Congress (I) in Haryana. He said that the Central government was negotiating for a package deal on the issues like Eradi Tribunal
Award on the distribution of the RaviBeas water, transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab, Jodhpur jail detainees, army deserters, but no concrete proposal ever came up. From his side there was never any reply in the negative, he said.
Mr. Barnala said though he had not been shown the Eradi Tribunal Award, he could gather from his sources that Haryana was being favored at the cost of Punjab. Similarly, he said, the Centre was pressing him to agree to give 70,000 acres of land to Haryana in lieu of Chandigarh, irrespective of whether it was Hindi speaking or Punjabi speaking area.
Mr. Balwant Singh, Finance Minister in the dismissed Ministry, has said that the imposition of President’s rule is an unconstitutional act and it will lead to more anarchy. Extremism would grow and the Sikh masses would now lose all faith in the Centre and the democratic process, he added.
Mr. Balwant Singh said that it would also adversely affect the poll prospects of the Congress (I) in Haryana. In about 25 constituencies, he said, the Sikh voters were in balancing position as the number of Sikh voters in these areas ranged between 10,000 to 25,000.
The State administration, after the imposition of President’s rule, has taken up preventive measures to control the situation. The Indian government has rushed 60 additional companies of paramilitary forces to help the State administration and these were being employed in all the 12 districts of the State. The number of paramilitary companies in the State has now increased to 350. Of them 160 have been posted in Jullundur range which comprises five districts. Thirty additional companies of paramilitary forces have been sent to Patiala and 10 companies of the Border Security Forces had been kept as reserve to be deploy
ed in Jullundur region at a short notice.
Members of various Sikh organizations like Damdami Taksal, All India Sikh Student Federation, the Panthic Committee and the United Akali Dal are being rounded up. Another reason for Mr. Barna’s dismissal can be sought in his efforts to win back the support of Sikh clergy and get himself back to Sikh religion. The wife of former Chief Minister, according to a report, was in regular contact with Prof. Darshan Singh Khalsa, Chief Sikh Priest, after Mr. Barnala was declared a Tankhaiya (guilty of religious misconduct) and excommunicated by five High Sikh Priests. Mr. Barnala’s son-in-law was also present in these meetings, which however, could not succeed.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 5, 1987